Okay my evil babies let’s say that you wrote your complete manuscript. You edited and filled plot holes and then edited again. Now you are ready to query literary agents. First let me say that not one writer on the planet likes to write a query letter. They’re hard because a query is telling and not showing and you’ve worked very hard to show and not tell. I’m not going to tell you how to write a query letter because almost every literary agent has a blog post or helpful papers on their website.
There are lots and lots of different things that agents ask for. What we are going to talk about is what your rejection means.
First there is the query letter only. With this you have 300 words to hook the agent into asking to read your pages. A rejection to this means one of six things.
- Your query letter needs work.
- You misspelled words.
- The agent you queried doesn’t represent your genre.
- The agent you queried already has similar books with authors who she represents.
- The agent is sick to death of reading Harry Potter look-a-likes.
- Your manuscript’s word count is way over what is usual for the genre that you write.
What this doesn’t mean is anything personal. They are not rejecting you as a person. It is one page. It isn’t your manuscript. It is a letter. Agents get tens and hundreds of queries a day. If you are constantly rejected, quit trying to do the same thing and expecting different results because that is the definition of insanity. Rework your query. Do your research. Try again.
Sometimes agents ask for the first five or first twenty-five or even the first fifty pages along with your query letter. If you get a rejection after they have read part of your story, there are still several reasons why.
- Your story needs more work. It is really easy to get excited about your brand new manuscript and to query prematurely. Do yourself a huge favor and if you’re not planning on hiring an editor, put it away for six weeks. Believe me in publishing land, six weeks is nothing. After it rests, you’ll see things you missed before.
- They didn’t connect to your characters. This is a hard fix but doable (not for this agent, of course—not unless they ask for revisions). It has to do with how you present your character to the reader. If you look in the ELEW archive there are lots of posts about this one.
Even when they have read your manuscript, and say it isn’t for them, it doesn’t mean it is personal. You like some authors and hate others. It is a thing people do. We like what resonates with us and our personal situation. A rejection does not mean that they want to burn you with fire. It means you are not to their taste.
The thing about rejection is that you had better get used to it. You’ll find it all the way through publishing. After you sign with an agent, editors will reject you. After that, you’ll always get some bad reviews. It isn’t a thing that goes away so suck it up and soldier on.